How to write an email to your teacher

by , under Writing skills

Email frustration
Is there a better way to phrase your email to your teacher?

Students aren’t often aware of the impact of their emails on their teachers. Well-written emails strengthen the relationship. Poorly-written emails will arouse resistance and opposition. You don’t want that.

Teachers are committed to helping students succeed and prosper. Really.

It only makes sense for students to learn to write emails that maximize their chances of getting the help and support they want and need from the people who want to help and support them.

Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you send an email to your teacher.

Dos

  1. Write your email in English. English teachers like that.
  2. Write an information-rich subject line: Online quiz problem in Lesson 4
  3. Begin with a salutation followed by a comma: Dear Professor Walker,
  4. Show some concern for the person reading the email: I hope you are having a good day. 
  5. Remind your teacher how he knows you: I’m in your Monday 8-11 class.
  6. Say why you are writing your email: I am writing this email to tell you about a problem I am having and to ask you for your help. 
  7. Be specific and get to the point: For some reason, I wasn’t able to do the online reading quiz on Labodanglais.com in Lesson 4. The quiz closed without warning, and it gave me a score of zero.
  8. Politely say what you want: Could you reset the quiz for me when you get the chance?
  9. Show some gratitude: I would really appreciate it. 
  10. Say when you will contact the teacher again: See you in class on Monday.
  11. Close with a standard greeting: Best wishes,
  12. Add your name: Justin Trudeau
  13. Check your email for errors using the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker.

Example


SUBJECT:   Online quiz problem in Lesson 4


Dear Professor Walker,

I hope you are having a good day.

I’m in your Monday 8-11 class. I am writing this email to tell you about a problem I am having and to ask you for your help.


For some reason, I wasn’t able to do the online reading quiz on Labodanglais.com in Lesson 4. The quiz closed without warning, and it gave me a score of zero.


Could you reset the quiz for me when you get the chance? I would really appreciate it. 


See you in class on Monday.

Best wishes,

Justin Trudeau

Don’ts

  1. Don’t forget any of the steps listed above.
  2. Don’t repeat any of the steps listed above in any subsequent exchanges. It usually isn’t necessary since the email thread will contain all of the previous pleasantries.

Big mistakes students make

Some students write their emails angry and confused.

You can imagine a student suddenly feeling very needy and a little annoyed while doing his or her homework. Something went wrong. Because of the pressure that student feels, he or she decides to get help from the teacher with a particular problem. However, instead of thinking how to get the teacher to sympathize and then assist with the problem, the student decides to share his or her annoyance and complain.

The website bugged on me and gave me zero on a quiz. I am not happy.

Many teachers will simply choose to ignore an impolite student’s email. Other teachers will engage. I tend to engage. I figure that I have a job to do. The student obviously doesn’t know how to communicate effectively in English, I have made a commitment to assist students outside of the classroom with office hours and emails, so it is my job to help students communicate. I might ask a few pointed questions.

Who are you? Why are you being so rude? Which website? Which quiz? Which course? Which group? What do you want?

Best wishes,
Nicholas Walker

I realize that the tone of such a reply is rather hostile, but I’m no pushover. The student wanted a frank exchange. Wish granted.

The real issue is this. Whether your teacher responds or not, the opportunity to build and strengthen the relationship between the teacher and the student will have been lost. Now, the relationship is infused with annoyance and frustration on both sides.

The big solution

If you are a student, learn how to write a proper email. You will get better results.

If you are a teacher, take a minute to communicate your expectations. If this blog post helps, please feel free to share it.

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